Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Touched by Time and Marked by the Traces of a Child's Play" : Interview with Leaf Whispers, Doll Photographer and Collector


Dolls have served as the muses and children of artists since time began.  Leonardo da Vinci, Cranach, Renoir, A. Marque, Picasso, David Levinthal, Jarvis Rockwell, Joseph Cornell, Tasha Tudor, and many more have been influenced by dolls, androids, and figures, or have created them. A real automaton inspired the film "Hugo."  Frida Kahlo has been the subject of dolls herself, but she also collected them.  She enjoyed repairing dolls as well. For me, even broken antique dolls have potential; there is a mystique about their imperfect state that inspires poetry. This month's interviewee is an artist, collector, and doll photographer who prefers to be known as Leaf Whispers.  I met her on Flickr while maintaining our albums for Antique Doll Collector Magazine.  As a poet and a doll lover, I find her interview refreshing and inspirational.  Enjoy this most  artistic interview from a true lover of antique dolls and their history.


When did you start collecting?


I’ve always loved dolls. My friends find this weird. I explain to them that although I forced myself to stop playing with dolls at the age of 12, in reality, I never did stop because it’s what I do for a living – I work as a film editor, which means that all day long, I play with tiny digital figures (AKA dolls).


In the past, I’ve gone on purges in which I unload my dolls onto the first child that crosses my path. Then, years later, I regret having done that. I especially miss Nicole, the artisanal cloth doll, I found in Quebec in 1982. During the last five years, I’ve gotten serious about dolls. Now that I’m old, I realize that I simply must have the dolls that I want, like right now.

PASK, Argentina- Spain, c. 1850,



Have your tastes changed over the years?


My tastes have changed a lot over the years. I’m presently drawn towards old dolls; the older, the better. Touched by time and marked by the traces of a child’s play, antique dolls are soulful and poignant. Perhaps their most potent gift to me is the whisper, “Memento Mori”.


My dolls’ broken limbs and time-ravaged faces remind me of my own mortality. This frightening and melancholic awareness is assuaged by the knowledge that my dolls have survived a very long time – beautiful in their decay – and that they will continue to live on, long after I have died. Will my old dolls carry a little bit of my spirit with them?


ALIS, by Joel Ellis. 

LUCE, Door of Hope

Another View of Luce

Another View of PASK


What are your favorite types of dolls?


China head dolls are my guilty pleasure. I adore their full, red cheeks and find myself spending hours and hours online, gazing at them, fantasizing about having them live with me. However, my true obsession is for antique wood dolls, such as Grodner Tal and Joel Ellis. To me, an antique wooden carries sensual elegance, without artifice or contrivance. Sturdy, strong, functional and dignified, a wooden doll also has an ethereal and whimsical quality.


I think their other worldliness stems from the organic material – the wood – that is constantly transforming, becoming more and more elemental and amorphous.

A wood doll breathes with life. It is as if she or he “never quite forgot the great tree of which [they were] once a living part." (Alice K. Early, “English Dolls”).

I live in a rain forest that has been devastated, simply to make trash. Giving back the life that was taken from a tree, through the creation of a skillfully crafted doll, makes me happy. Handmade by an artisan and constantly morphing and recreating herself through entropy each wooden doll is unique and precious.


Do you sew for your dolls?

I don’t sew for my dolls because I don’t know how. Also, I tend to prefer dolls naked, sans clothes, because a doll’s body speaks to me, as much as her face. That said, I am in total awe of the exquisite, detailed stitching and construction of antique clothes. I’m also emotionally moved by the mending and repairs; the traces of the mother or aunty or sister who so lovingly stitched together the torn clothing so that the little doll owner could continue to play.


I do intend to acquire more antique, hand-sewn doll clothes, regardless of whether or not the articles of clothing fit my dolls, because these antique clothes are Art. Since I am unable to sew clothes for my dolls, I express my love and adoration for them, through photography. Perhaps I dress them in light and shadow. When I’m preparing to take a photograph, I don’t usually place my dolls inside scenes. Instead, I use the setting and the background to reflect the emotional or psychic space of the doll. In this expressionistic style, the doll’s interior world is reflected in the world around them.


Looking through the lens, I keep moving around the doll, until I finally get a connection. When I see her looking back at me, smiling or perhaps blinking, I take a photo.

I get lost inside this play. There’s no real goal or purpose. It’s simply about the pleasure of connecting with something that I find intriguing, and towards whom I can radiate affection.


My dolls are always elusive. Yes, we communicate, but they do actually live in another world, where I cannot enter. This is why they often have a mysterious, distant, and eerie expression in my photos.


What are the characteristics that attract you to a certain doll?


One vital requisite is that the doll shouldn’t be too loud. The contemporary doll-maker Menya Shoho says, “Dolls unlike sculpture are meant for admiration in private. As it is a private space, I don't like my works being overly talkative. I wish them to be still and gentle, as if I could casually talk with the dolls in everyday life”. I too prefer quiet dolls.

I also listen for the ones who still carry the child’s whispered secrets; the dolls that are haunted.


When choosing a doll, I simply stare into her eyes and wait to see if we connect.

I also have a weakness for round faces and for those dolls whose open eyes announce eagerness to play.


I’m charmed by dolls that are broken or missing parts of themselves. To me, they are full of character, with lots of stories. My china doll Leaf’s limbs are disconnected from her torso, but I don’t want to make her a new body. I like that her torn body will continue to degrade because it is this quality of falling apart that makes Leaf so endearing and special. (I also prefer not to impose myself, to just let the dolls be, as they are. Perfect in their imperfections.) However, in spite of being broken, a doll should feel whole, i.e., the body and head need to be integrated as one. 


For example, my doll Twig’s cloth body has been repaired into a very strange, eccentric form, and yet Twig is a complete self, she exists as a whole, connected to her body. This connection between head and body is a difficult sentiment to explain, but it’s a characteristic of dolls that is important to me.


Are you looking for anything in particular?


Because I long for so many dolls, I have to control myself. Therefore, my next acquisition will be

for a doll that I will seek out, specifically. In the not too distant future, I will set out on a quest for a Grodner Tal, a Milliner, and a Mitsu-ore.


Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

May 2017 Sneak Peek!

Spring has sprung, and along with it, wonderful dolls are popping up everywhere.  Try not to drool on the magazine as you take a leisurely trip through the amazing world of antique and vintage dolls and all things related to them! 


Automata and toy fans will be dancing for joy along with the wonderful automatons featured at the Team Breker Toy and Automata auction.  We feature a gallery of delightful automatons for your viewing pleasure, including amazing costumed monkey automatons.  Don't miss the lovely mechanical violinist on our cover, either!


Doll seamstresses and tailors will take note that we have a wonderful Jumeau dress pattern in our May issue this year.   There are also great ads from trustworthy dealers who can help you outfit your antique dolls in style.


Those who live for doll eye candy can't miss our story on the legendary and important collection of  Countess Maree Tarnowska, a passionate author, dealer, and collector, especially of amazing antique French bisques. 


We are also offering terrific articles on white gold porcelain and ceramics, a doll friendship tour centering on Japanese dolls, a collectibles column on Helen Kish and her relationship to antique dolls and contributions to doll art, key auctions, and much more.


See our website for convenient ways to subscribe, and catch us on all our social media hangouts!


Happy Collecting!


Look for this Icon Displaying our May 2017 cover  on our Website to subscribe




April Collector Feature: Diane Roche


Below is a brief, but well-put collector's statement from our friend, Diane Roche.  Diane is a respected dealer of antique dolls, but she is also a collector and true fan of fine French dolls.  We've had many terrific conversations on doll research, antique dolls, and antique doll clothes.  She has clothed many a fine doll for me, and I can boast proudly that a fine Jutta, Frozen Charlie, and Vintage Artists' A.T. have come from her wonderful stock!  She is supportive of all antique doll collectors, doll enthusiasts, and doll research, truly a collector's collector! Diane says:




I have been  collecting  dolls since I was  a little girl,  but collecting  antique dolls since 1990. My  tastes have become more sophisticated,  overall , and my "faves"  are French bebes and  fashions
Also I like vintage  reproductions and am always looking for small dolls, and for the most part I don't sew!!  Moreover, I  always look for the artistry and beauty when I buy, the charm of the face, and  also originality can be a factor. 


Vintage, Artist A.T. that came from Diane's Archives.  Made with a
Seeley Body, well marked, and Old Clothing and Materials.






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

April Sneak Peek



 
This month, we have a veritable buffet of dolls for you to enjoy, plus our regular features.  There are also the usual great auction reports, doll shows, and wonderful information for those who love to collect antique dolls.
 
We feature an incredible doll collection, that of Vicenza Fedele, Part I, in a terrific article by our own Lynn Murray.  These collector profiles are always inspiring and great fun to read.
 
Our collectibles column features fairy dolls, for all those inspired by fairy gardens, fairy tales, and fairy art.
 
Miniature lovers will be intrigued by the article “The Small and Cozy World of Walfrid Victoreen”, while those who love small dolls will enjoy “The Artistry of French Mlle Riera Dolls” and  “A Glimpse at Savoie.”
 
“Toy Ahoy! Floating Bisque Novelties of the early 1900s” will make everyone long for the beach and all that summer brings.

This is only the tip of the iceberg; there is much more!
 
Enjoy our beautiful April issue, and enjoy your spring doll collecting adventures!!


 
 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Interview with Gloria Kimmel


I first met this month's interviewee when I was living in San Jose.  We had a mutual friend in Mrs. Ruby Sargent, the former owner of the local Nice Twice Doll Shop.  Gloria was an inspiration to anyone who loved dolls, and she had wonderful ideas for collecting.  It is an honor and a pleasure to share her thoughts, and her historic doll, here:


Interview Questions for Antique Doll Collector


When did you start collecting?

I started collecting for my oldest daughter in 1977. We were a military family living on Okinawa and I bought her a Japanese doll. I told myself that I was collecting for her in those early years but in reality, I was a fledgling collector for myself.

I bought  Composition Madame Alexanders, Ideal, Artist dolls such as Robin Woods, Dolls by Jerri, Heidi Ott and even some of those home shopping network ones in those early years , but then everything changed.


In the mid 80's I was browsing in my favorite antique shop in San Jose and they had just bought an antique doll collection. I bought my first doll book that day, a Jan Foulke Guide,  and started learning about dolls. The next few weeks, I bought the Coleman's Encyclopedia and devoured every word.  Then I went back to the doll shop to see if any of those dolls were left.


 I saw one that I just loved and I bought her. Her label said that she was an AM but when I got her home, I discovered the numbers 1123 1/2 on her shoulder plate. In a few minutes I knew that she was an ABG. She was a 28 Inch Beauty and I have been hooked every since.


Have your tastes changed over the years?


My first antique doll was a bisque, but in those early years, I just saw dolls and bought every thing. Now I focus on the Early German Bisque dolls. I think that my eye has changed over the years. When you have the ability to see a lot of dolls, it can't help but change your perspective because you become aware of subtle painting techniques and view the antique doll as an Art object instead of a child's play thing.


What are your favorite types of dolls?

I love the early pale bisque dolls from Kling, ABG and Simon & Halbig.  In my first collection I bought dolls of all mediums because I wanted each of them represented, but now my primary focus are the early dolls from Germany.


What are the characteristics that attract you to a certain doll?

One of the first things I notice about a doll is the clothing. I was lucky enough in my first collection to have many all original dolls, both mommy-dressed and factory dressed. I am fascinated by the skill it took to make those costumes. If a doll has a story, then that is close to my heart also. I have been lucky enough to own several family dolls and have written those stories to remain with the dolls and for the future generation of care takers.


Do you sew for your dolls?

I should make all kinds of doll clothing considering that I once used to sew for Vanity Fair,  but I have only made one doll dress for a low brow china. The smallness of the patterns is just something that I am not an expert at, although I greatly admire those that have that ability.

In my early collecting days, I was lucky enough to purchase a doll from Mrs Hinz's son,  of K & H dolls. She went to Germany and studied with the Armand Marseilles dressmakers to learn how to sew the clothes for their dolls and I bought one of her dresses.  Here is the dress and doll formerly  belonging to Mrs Hinz. She is a 1278 Dep model from ABG ca. 1892:


ABG, once part of the K&H doll family.  Courtesy Gloria Kimmel







Are you looking for anything in particular ?


I have a desire for a Blue Scarf again. I have had the original ABG one and the Emma Clear one  reproduction from '46 in my first collection.

I did not bond with the Antique one and sold her to my best friend and the Emma Clear has gone to my oldest daughter that loved her, so I am looking for "the" one.

I am what I call a "heart collector". If I want to hug the doll, then that is one that would make it home to join my collection.